Susan Koehler Sullivan has more than 25 years’ experience as a commercial litigator, specializing in corporate insurance matters. She handles insurance coverage investigations and disputes (including through trial or arbitrations) under all types of policies, including fidelity, directors and officers, employment, professional, property, excess and general liability policies. She also represents companies and employers in their commercial disputes and employment matters.
Ms. Sullivan employs a 360-degree approach to every matter, where fully analyzing factual and legal issues is just the beginning. She evaluates and considers each party’s interests and motivations to determine the best strategy forward, and enjoys working closely with her clients to achieve their goals.
- Obtained terminating sanctions in California state court action for bad faith and breach of contract, based on plaintiff’s failure to comply with deposition and other discovery requests. Terminating sanctions followed the Court’s granting of defendant’s motion to compel and for payment of monetary sanctions.
- Following extensive discovery to demonstrate material misstatements were made by the insured in applying for insurance coverage, we obtained summary judgment based on rescission of a commercial crime policy. The insured, a 1031 exchanger, had comingled client and operating funds resulting in a shortfall of over $40 million in client exchange funds. Plaintiff appealed to the Ninth Circuit which affirmed the summary judgment in Heidi Kurtz v. Liberty Mutual Ins. Co., Case No. 14-55931 (Sept. 1, 2016).
- Obtained partial summary judgment finding that there was no “Ordinance or Law” coverage under a commercial property policy for the cost of replacing old manufacturing equipment which regulators believed might be unsafe to operate. The Central District of California trial court ruled that damage related to the accident was distinct from long-term damage due to corrosion, and the insurer did not act in bad faith in denying coverage for replacement of the equipment.
- Obtained summary judgment finding no coverage for a wage and hour lawsuit brought against the insured manufacturer. The federal court rejected plaintiff’s assertion that potential but un-alleged claims for wrongful employment practices were sufficient to trigger coverage under the employment practices policy.
- Obtained summary judgment from the state court trial judge in a $100 million breach of contract action involving coverage for underlying ERISA class actions. The insured has appealed the ruling.
- As lead counsel for a $100 million tower of insurance, investigated and negotiated a highly favorable settlement of a complex fidelity claim.
- Obtained a motion to dismiss a Washington State Class Action under the Driver’s Privacy Protection Act involving a putative class of $12 million and alleged damages exceeding $2 billion.
- Turned a 10-figure exposure to a client into a multi-million dollar settlement in favor of the client in the context of an arbitration/mediation. The commercial case involved a large-equipment manufacturer and top U.S. automobile manufacturer.
- Obtained summary judgment on a multi-million dollar lost rents claim arising from vandalism of a commercial property.
- Co-tried and won a $100 million insurance coverage action involving whether a $150 million umbrella policy covering hospital professional liability dropped down and became primary coverage upon the exhaustion of a fully-fronted primary policy.
- Obtained summary judgment, affirmed on appeal, against a $10 million duty to defend claim under a commercial general liability policy’s personal and advertising injury coverage. The claim arose from a dispute over rights to a rap recording.
- Obtained summary judgment and affirmance on appeal against a claim for breach of contract and bad faith under an employment practices liability policy issued to a financial services company. The trial court granted summary judgment on multiple grounds, including rescission.
- Argued and won appeal resulting in dismissal of breach of contract and bad faith claims under a professional liability policy where the insured general agent failed to remit premiums to a receiver.
- Obtained summary judgment in a $200 million breach of contract case arising out of the failure of one of the largest S&Ls in the country. Argued and obtained affirmance by the 9th Circuit on majority of issues permitting case to resolve for a tiny fraction of the alleged damages.
Presentations and Publications
- Presenter, “Cutting Edge Insurance Trends" video/CD with The Rutter Group (April 12, 2017).
- Speaker, “The ABCs of an SEC Investigation,” Surety Law Committee’s 2017 Midwinter Meeting (January 18-20, 2017).
- Author, “The Other Coverage Conditions” Chapter, Financial Institution Bonds, ABA 4th Ed. (2016).
- Speaker, “Termination and Cancellation: Key Elements,” ABA Fidelity & Surety Law Fall Program (November 5, 2015).
- Author, “Cancellation and Termination” Chapter, Annotated Commercial Crime Policy, ABA 3d Ed. (2015).
- Co-chair, 2014 Fall Fidelity Program Commercial Crime Insurance Coverage, ABA TIPS Fidelity and Surety Law Committee (November 5-7, 2014).
- Co-editor, Commercial Crime Insurance Coverage, ABA (2014).
- Speaker, “Lean In” panel discussion, hosted by the Pepperdine Women’s Legal Association (March 2014).
- Speaker, “Bonds for Broker Dealers,” presented at ABA Fidelity and Surety Law Mid-Winter Program (January 2014).
- Speaker, “Fidelity Insurance Litigation & Special Nuances with Fidelity Bank Bonds: Direct Loss, Exclusions, Forgery, and Dishonest Employees,” presented at American Conference Institute’s “Litigation Contract Surety Bond & Fidelity Insurance Claims” Seminar (October 17-18, 2012).
- Speaker, “Insured’s Reciprocal Duty of Good Faith: The Blind Eye Defense,” presented at the Surety & Fidelity Claims Institute’s 37th Annual Meeting (June 2012).
- Related article: Grappling with Good Faith: The Blind Eye Defense, Surety & Fidelity Claims Institute (June 27-29, 2012).
- Speaker, “Emerging Issues and Recent Developments in Insurance Law,” presented at the Orange County Bar Association Insurance Law Seminar (June 2012).
- Author, “Insured’s Failure to Pay Contract Benefits Due and Related Attorneys’ Fees Are Not Covered Under Errors and Omissions Policy,” Sedgwick’s Insurance Law Blog (May 2012).
- Co-author, “Scope of Coverage” and “Coverage Litigation Issues,” chapters of Directors and Officers Liability Insurance Deskbook, ABA 3d Ed. (2011).
- Speaker, “A Practical Guide to E-Discovery,” presented to State Fund Insurance Company (May 2010).
- Speaker: “Role of Insurance Agent in Coverage Issues,” ABA/TIPS Insurance Coverage Litigation Committee Midyear Meeting (February 2010).
- Author, “Insurer Has No Duty to Defend Assault and Battery Claims Against its Insured — California Supreme Court,” Sedgwick’s Insurance Law Update (August 2009).
- Speaker, “Bad Faith and the Genuine Dispute Doctrine,” Sedgwick Insurance Coverage Seminar Issues and Trends in Extracontractual Coverage and Liability, Chicago, IL (June 2008).
- Author, “Termination and Cancellation,” Financial Institution Bonds, ABA 3d Ed. (2008).
- Contributing editor, update of “Construction Liability,” Insurance Litigation, Rutter Group (2008).
- Co-author, “Recent Developments in Insurance Coverage Litigation,” ABA TIPS Law Journal (Spring 2008).
- Co-editor of Sedgwick’s Insurance Law Update, ongoing since Fall 2007.
- Author, “The Genuine Dispute Doctrine,” IADC Committee Newsletter: Fidelity and Surety (October 2007).
- Author, “Recurring Issues in Rescission Cases,” ABA Tort Trial & Insurance Practice Law Journal (Fall 2006).
- Speaker, “The Question of Causation in Loan Loss Cases,” Fidelity Law Association Annual Meeting, Philadelphia, PA (October 2005).
- Author, “The Question of Causation in Loan Loss Cases,” Fidelity Law Journal (Fall 2005).
- Author, “Rescission Based on an Insured’s Failure to Disclose Potential Claims or Litigation,” ABA Tort Trial Insurance Practice Section Mid-Winter Meeting (February 2005).
- Panelist, “Application Misrepresentations and Rescission,” ABA Tort Trial Insurance Practice Section Mid-Winter Meeting, Phoenix, AZ (February 2005).
- Co-author, “Subrogation and Mitigation,” Handling Fidelity Bond Claims, ABA (2005).
- Contributor, “Termination or Cancellation,” Annotated Financial Institution Bond, 2d Edition ABA (2004).
- Author, “Two for the Price of One: The Impact of the Karen Kane Decision,” The Fidelity Law Journal (October 2000).
- J.D. (1991) University of California, Los Angeles School of Law
- B.A. (1987) University of Washington, with honors
- Los Angeles County Bar Association’s Outstanding Pro Bono Attorney Achievement Award (1997)
- Los Angeles County Bar Association Barristers President’s Award (2001)
- Southern California Super Lawyers “Rising Star” (2004–2006)
- Wallace Sedgwick Client Service Award (2012)
- Selected as one of the 45 Most Influential Women by the LA Business Journal (2017)
Memberships and Affiliations
- Los Angeles County Bar Association’s President’s Advisory Committee on Women in the Legal Profession
- American Bar Association, Tort and Insurance Practice Section, Fidelity and Surety Law Committee and Labor and Employment Section
- Global Advisory Board of the Women in Law Empowerment Forum (WILEF)
- Sedgwick Women’s Forum Board
- Board of Directors of the Counsel for Justice